Chinese Students, Please Apply!

When my daughter Jessie was applying to graduate school, I asked one of my tennis buddies with a PhD from Caltech whether he thought Caltech would give Jessie any preference since there are so few women in physics.

He replied cautiously that his impression was that Caltech had remained pretty steadfastly meritocratic, so she was unlikely to receive a thumb on the scale because of her sex. But, he added, “but she may get some preference because she’s not Chinese.”

Now it appears that the failure to be born in China might actually be an obstacle to admission. This seems so at the flagship University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign. Inside Higher Edreports that this year Illinois recruited “about 600 freshmen (around 10 percent of the class) from China. As recently as 2006, Illinois was enrolling only about 20 new undergraduates from China. This year, Illinois held three orientation sessions for Chinese students while they were still in China.”

One of the most common justifications for “diversity”-based preferences is that the demands of global competition require us to promote “diversity” to prepare us for this intense competition. Perhaps, but what exactly is our interest in preparing competitors like the Chinese to compete with us?

Back in 2006 I discussed one of the seemingly unending reports lamenting the “underrepresentation” of women in science whose press announcement from the National Academies began with the inevitable and  “global competition” rationale for what I called Fighting Gender Bias In Science … With Gender Bias In Science:

WASHINGTON — Women face barriers to hiring and promotion in research universities in many fields of science and engineering — a situation that deprives the United States of an important source of talent as the country faces increasingly stiff global competition in higher education, science and technology, and the marketplace, says a new report from the National Academies.

A question I asked then bears repeating: should foreign women who are in this country only temporarily … be counted toward “compliance” with the “goals” recommended by the Academies? Insofar as it is necessary to displace some men to make room for more women, should American males be displaced to make room for foreign females? And why should both American males and females be displaced to make room for our future Chinese competitors?

John S. Rosenberg

John S. Rosenberg

John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.

4 thoughts on “Chinese Students, Please Apply!

  1. Grad students are the lab’s manpower. When hiring a dependable colleague, you, probably, choose his/her skills, not gender or color of skin.

    Actually, it is very easy to become a grad student, even in Caltech. There is not enough qualified candidates.

  2. Because Chinese undergrad and grad students are really good. Americans are preoccupied with diversity and leadership instead of solid knowledge of math and science. Chinese kids are very bright.

  3. Obviously, Illinois is trying to get in on the out of state tuition that masses of Chinese and others pay. It’s a nice subsidy for the in state American students.

  4. I’m guessing the reason for the marketing push is that the Chinese students would be full-tuition-paid by the Chinese government.

    Also, given the substantial size of the cohort from China, the University of Illinois may be attempting to mask a problem related to an inability to compete for quality students. They realize it would be bad long-term strategy to dumb down the university, so they can’t just fill the seats required to justify their budget by packing it full of low-SAT semi-illiterates.

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